February 12, 2018

The Military Is Not a Political Prop

By Phillip Carter

The power of the president, as commander in chief of the armed forces, has evolved over more than two centuries, constrained by congressional action, the emergence of a standing military establishment after World War II and a more complex world.

Some of the most important constraints on presidential power have been shaped in the form of norms of civil-military relations observed from George Washington to Barack Obama. These norms — respect for the military’s culture, its role in society and its separation from partisan politics — have been bolstered in recent decades by a professional military ethic that requires troops to avoid politics and focus on their missions.

Enter Donald Trump, our 45th president. Since taking office, he has shattered countless norms of civil-military relations — for example, by appointing many retired or active generals to high office, by politicking before military audiences and by summarily dismissing military advice on Afghanistan.

Read the full article in The New York Times.

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